APPLE VALLEY, Minn. - Spooked by reports of home-delivered parcels being stolen in her Apple Valley neighborhood, Suzi Forrest Magill recently installed a couple of internet-connected security cameras on the outside of her house - one pointing at her front steps, the other at her garage.
She is part of a trend. With packages being snatched off doorsteps and porches at an alarming rate during the holidays, many homeowners are investing in security cameras that are easy to set up, simple to use and don’t cost a fortune - typically in the low- to mid-hundreds of dollars.
These cameras typically have recording features, often triggered by detected motion, and also can see in the dark.
Best of all, because the cameras connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, they can be accessed from anywhere on a smartphone, tablet or laptop. This permits homeowners to check on their family members, pets and properties while they’re away.
Forrest Magill, for instance, purchased Arlo-branded cameras, made by Netgear, that operate on battery power and can be positioned just about anywhere. These cameras brought peace of mind for her.
“I can see if I got a package or if the kids are home from school,” Forrest Magill said. “I get an instant alert from the motion sensor and can see a 10-second video clip. I can look in a video library to see all the times we recorded something.”
Similarly, Davina Sowers of Minneapolis installed a Ring Video Doorbell - a high-tech doorbell that incorporates a video camera and is connected to the internet so owners know at all times who has arrived at their door. A speaker and microphone permit conversations to occur, too.
Sowers, of the jazz ensemble Davina and the Vagabonds, hit pay dirt with her camera-equipped device when it caught a package thief red-handed earlier this year.
In an early-July video posted on Facebook, a young man sporting a man bun and with an unlit cigar clenched between his teeth can be seen snatching three boxes, and even Sower’s mail, including her junk mail.
Sowers saw all of this from afar, while in Montreal for a jazz festival, and was furious. The man had, among other things, deprived her of eagerly awaited, butterscotch-colored 1940s Bakelite earrings. She also lost a copy of Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.”
“What a chump,” Sowers said.
And, as Sowers discovered, capturing thieves in the act is no guarantee they will be found and the property recovered. Even though she contacted police, her case remains unsolved.
Her love for her Ring Video Doorbell is undiminished, however. In fact, she purchased a second unit for the back of her house.
“I can keep an eye on the back of my home when I’m gone,” she noted. “I can see my cat-sitter coming and going.”
Her husband gets a bit annoyed when receiving a steady stream of motion-sensor alerts, but “I like that,” Sowers said. “And if I’m busy when someone rings the doorbell, I can tell them I can’t come to the door.”
Ring Video Doorbell users soon will be able to interact with each other, too. The maker this month is debuting a set of still-experimental Ring Neighborhood features that will allow one neighbor to accept a package for another neighbor, enable video sharing and cooperative neighborhood monitoring, and more.
Home-security cameras have been catching package thieves in the act for a while now. A St. Paul residence’s video-surveillance system last year recorded crystal-clear footage of a man removing a package from the doorstop.
Internet-connected security cameras have become so popular that brick-and-mortar electronics retailers have created entire sections for them, alongside other home-automation devices that are all the rage lately.
Best Buy stores have staffers who are trained to talk visitors through their options when looking at security cameras. It can get confusing because many such products now exist.
One such Twin Cities-based Best Buy worker, Pedro Melendez, said consumers have to weigh their choices based on several important factors. These include:
- Power. Some cameras, such as models from Google-owned Nest, are designed to plug into AC outlets, while others, like the Arlo versions, are self-contained and wire-free. Some Ring models are hardwired, just like conventional doorbells.
- Video resolution. The latest cameras provide high-resolution video but footage quality will vary. Some provide 720p quality, which is pretty good, while others provide a full 1080p.
- Video recording. Most newer security cameras have recording capabilities - typically triggered when motion is detected - but the details vary.
Some, like certain D-Link models, store their recorded footage locally, but many others save the footage in “the cloud,” that is online. Some consumers adore internet archiving, but others insist on the footage existing only in their homes.